Who is an Indian?



From Ned Heite 30 Jan 2000:

What happened to the Delmarva Indians? Dr. Helen C. Rountree, in her several excellent publications, has given us a picture of those Eastern Shore Indian descendants who have been identified. Many of our neighbors are clearly identified as Indians, and their ancestry is not in doubt.

However, I am coming to the conclusion that most of the Indian descendants in the Middle Atlantic region today are identified as "white," and not "mulatto" or "black."

There is plenty of unwritten evidence that intermarriage between Indians and whites was the rule, rather than the exception, in the early years of European colonization. In the latest issue of the Archaeological Society of Virginia bulletin is Martha McCartney's insightful analysis of the census records for the Virginia colony compiled in 1619-1620. Most settlers were male; in some plantations, all were male. There simply were no "available" English women.

Therefore, we must assume that these fellows were either gay, celibate, or mated with Indian women. Take your choice, but remember that they were largely young and robust single Englishmen, away from home and not terribly well regulated. So only the third choice stands the test of reasonableness.

Flash forward nearly a century, and the Virginia legislature passes a law stating that the child of a white and an Indian is a mulatto, but the child of a white and a half Indian (that is, with one Indian grandparent) is white. This rule seems to have held in Delaware and Maryland, too.

Why do legislatures pass laws? Because some constituent believes there is an issue to be addressed. We don't talk about gun laws unless there is gun violence. Clearly there is a reason to enfranchise as "white" anyone with only one Indian grandparent. My suggestion: The legislators, or their constituents, needed to define a difference between "mulatto" and "white" for purposes of the civil law.

The logical inference from the Virginia legislature's definition is that there must have been plenty of white planters with Indian ancestry who wanted their franchise protected during a period when racial divides were becoming sharper and sharper.

Indian wives would help explain why so many genealogies are easily traced through the male line, but hit dead ends at the female side. If the mother was an Indian, and if the marriage was sanctioned only in the most irregular way, a child's legal record (in cases of probate for example) would refer only to his or her father's side, the mother's family being outside the English legal system.

I'd be very interested to see this issue discussed on this list.

From David H. Jones, DESUSSEX-L@rootsweb.com 30 Jan 2000:

Without having any specific knowledge of the issue based on research, logical tells me that Ned Heite's theory on Indian ancestry in the 17th century is probably correct. The fact that the Virginia legislature passed a law in the 18th century stating that the child of a white and an Indian is a mulatto, but the child of a white and a half Indian is white, certainly provides a reasonable explanation about the lack of documentation on wives of the early English settlers. Thank you for sharing this interesting insight.


From: Thomas Roach, DESUSSEX-L@rootsweb.com 30 Jan 2000:

I also agree with Ned Heite's theory.

I am descended on my Mother's side from an Indian woman of a Maryland Indian tribe and one of an early English settler's sons. He had a plantation on the Eastern Shore (right bank of Chesepeake Bay for those out of the area). The Indian and the son had a number of children.

The settler's son died young. The settler's family moved in and took over the plantation, with the Indian woman and her children getting nothing. The Indian woman died in Baltimore Maryland in 1873 at the ripe old age of 113.

Our conclusion, looking back at the records, everything was deleted - as if a marriage had never taken place. The settler's family, which still exists in Maryland, has records in the Maryland Historical Society but no reference to the one son's marriage to an Indian, nor any reference to their children.

From Jan Hendricks, DESUSSEX-L@rootsweb.com 2 Feb 2000:

I also agree with Ned's theory and that is the primary reason I joined this list. I have Hickman lineage, and I have already researched Delaware (Lenape) ancestry within this family. I suspect there may also be Nanticoke ancestry, a tribe that was originally found in Delaware and Maryland. I have found two Jacob Hickmans and several others in Delaware; if anyone on this list also has Hickman lineage, I would love to hear from them. Also, does anyone know the history of the town of Hickman, which on most maps appears to be in Delaware, but on some maps is shown just over the line into Maryland? This town also sits on the line between Sussex and Kent counties.

When I searched the Mormon records for these Hickmans, in most cases the wife is not listed, even by a first name, yet the children with all their birthdates, etc. are mentioned along with the father. Some of these families are shown at Mispillion Hundred and others at Cedar Creek Hundred.

I suspect that most Eastern tribes would be "extinct" today if it weren't for the fact that they intermarried with whites. In some cases it seemed the only way they were able to hold on to their land, etc. I have encountered the same frustrations in tracing many of my ancestors (where the wife seems to be non-existent.) In one example, a John Hickman (of Pennsylvania) is said to have never married or had children (this was in a lengthy and detailed biography) - yet I have found strong evidence that he fathered several children - I suspect he had an Indian wife. Adding credence to this theory, his uncle (Joseph Hickman) was an Indian Trader in Pennsylvania, whose wife, "Mary", was also (I suspect) Indian.

My research suggests that many mixed-bloods married other mixed-bloods down through the generations, even though they may have kept this secret. I always wonder when an extensive history is given on one partner, while the other is scarcely mentioned.

I would be very interested in what other people have done to get to the bottom of these family lines that are so difficult to trace due to their Native American ancestry.

... if only our ancestors had known how confusing this would be to their descendants! Then again, they had to do whatever was necessary to survive......I also have Palin (Paulin, Pawlin, Pawling, etc.) ancestry in Pennsylvania, then Chesapeake Bay, then North Carolina, finally Indiana. I believe there are African-American lines tied in with the Palin lines as well as a related family, the Platers or Platters. The tough part is putting together the clues and making sense of it - then again, that is the challenging and fun part too.

My ancestors could not have know how happy I am to have such a diverse background - I consider it to be a gift......

From: Deborah Cavel-Greant 14 Nov 1999:

Let me post a 'CLARK roster' to refresh memories (or make some :). My earliest Documentable CLARK;

Levin CLARK b circa 1755 d 1830 Sussex Co DE m Esther Aydelotte c 1775

Levin and Esther's Children:
William Aydelott Clark b 1777 m Sophie Miller 1814 (in Indiana)
John Clark July 11, 1783 m Sophia (Sussex Co.)
Levin Clark II 1785 m ? pb Norwood (my ancestor)
James Clark 1790 - Lydia (pb Norwood) -
Elizabeth Clark 1793 - m ? Cherry d b 1834
Nathaniel Clark Dec 21, 1796 - wife's name unknown - d 1832

My ancestor Levin II and wife left Sussex Co by 1808 for Ohio. They had two sons before her death by about 1813-14. The younger of the two (Levin Larkin b 1811) is my ancestor. We have no record of where they lived in Ohio or where my GG-Grandmother is buried. He remarried in May of 1816 and had several more children. He died in Knox Co IN. in 1866.

Levin Larkin (b 1811) moved from IN to WI after the death of his first wife (Eliza Gouty). He married Martha KAST in WI and they moved to TX. They had 11 children, including my grandfather Henry Calvin b 1860 d 1935.

The remarkable thing about this family is that they kept in sort of 'bush telegraph' contact with the DE arm of the family right into the 20th century. When I started collecting information about the Clarks (late 70's) I asked my cousin Martin (then in his 60's) to tell me everything he could remember Grandad Clark telling him about his family. I still have my notes.

They include that Grandpa told Martin that his cousin 'Charlie Clark has opened a store in Clarksville.' Martin thought he meant Clarksville Texas, although we talked about it and couldn't remember any relatives ever living in Clarksville Texas. We didn't know about the Delaware connection at the time. We hadn't gotten them out of Texas yet!

It was only after I discovered the Sussex and Kent Co group that I discovered some things about the Clark family in DE and learned that Charles Clark actually did run a store near Clarksville! How that filtered out to Grandad I'll never know, but probably the 'Indian' relatives he visited all through my mother's childhood were in touch with the folks in Sussex Co and they caught him up on the news when they got together.

My Grandad visited his 'Indian' relatives up near Chickasha (OK) back around 1910-1912 and come home convinced that the seventh day was the sabbath. He kept the seventh day sabbath the rest of his life. He never came into contact with a Seventh-day Adventist as far as I know, but he had been told about the sabbath and he believed it right off.

The Clarks have what are called the 'Norwood' eyes - we've talked about this a number of times on the other list. It isn't a sensitive subject with us, but I can appreciate that it is with them. The medical term is 'congenital ptosis' and while it is rare you do see it occasionally among Eastern Algonquin people.

All these Clarks are baffling me - any chance you might give a reference date when you post a name? It's fine when you know the people, when you don't it's hard to know what generation someone is in.

From: John C. Carter, 18 Jul 2000

(Included among the pension records of Isaiah "Zadock"/"Zeddick" Munce/Muntz, and his widow Elmira Carty/Carter Munce/Muntz).


Orig. Wid. No. 831870
Elmira Muntz
P.O. Cheswold, Kent Co., Del.
widow of Zeddick Muntz
[Samce?] Co. E. 30th U.S.C.T.

Wilmington, Del.
Sept 28, 1906
The Commissioner of Pensions
Washington, D.C.


I have the honor to return herewith all the papers and my report in the above indicated claim for pension which was referred for special examination to determine legal widowhood.

Claimant was duly notified and fully advised of his [sic] rights and privileges, all of which she waived. Prior to 1861 there are no full records of marriages in Kent Co, Del.

I examined such records as exist and found Rev. P. Mansfield's return--rather copy of return--for that year 1857--and under date of Jany. 29 1857 is recorded the following:

"Jany. 29 1857 -- Isaiah [Munsoe? Munroe? Mounse?] to Emeline Carter -- P. Mansfield -- Elder, M.E. Church"

There is no other marriage by Mr. Mansfield recorded of same date. I was unable to identify the parties whose names appear in the record as the soldier and claimant; yet I am satisfied that record does refer to claimant and soldier -- and that an error was made in transcribing from Mr. Mansfield's report. I endeavored to find the original report of Mr. Mansfield, but could not locate it at the court house and was told the originals were kept about three years then destroyed. I could locate no books of [Squire?] [Green?] to show if he had issued license to marry to soldier and claimant.

As a rule a bond was formerly given when parties applied for license, but this did not apply in the case of negros -- who by special provision of the law were permitted to get license from a Justice of the Peace -- instead of the Clerk of the Peace.

There was but one Methodist church in Smyrna in 1857 -- is not one there now.

I examined the records and while I found entries in Mr. Piner Mansfield's handwriting the marriage record only begins in May 1857 -- when a new minister took charge of the circuit.

I believe the testimony herewith shows the facts as fully and clearly as can be now established.

I could have secured any amount of testimony from reliable white and colored people, showing no prior marriages -- continued cohabitation and recognition if further testimony on these points had been thought by me essential. I had known the soldier for some sixteen years and he has always gone by the name of "Zed" Muntz and it was not until the widow's claim came for special examination that I heard his name was anything else.

He and the claimant and all of the witnesses belong to a people who declare they are not negros -- they have straight hair -- many of them blue or gray eyes -- and look like the Italian laborers. They do not associate with the negros -- have separate schools and churches -- and I have found them universally reliable and respectable, but uneducated. They say they are Moors and Indians mixed.

I recommend that the papers be referred to the Chief of the Board of Review for consideration.

Very respectfully
R.P. Fletcher
Spt [xx]


From Forest Hazel, 13 Apr 2001:

One of the problems with taking Paul Heinegg's work as gospel is that with many of these families, he lacks all the pieces of the puzzle, which causes him to come up with incorrect conclusions. Anyone reading the work has to be careful to differentiate between instances when he is using actual documentry evidence to say, show children of a particular individual, and when he is speculating. My main objection is that I feel he has a personal bias about this subject that causes him to be less than fair in his presentations of the family histories.

A specific example would be in his treatment of the Jeffries family of Greensville/Brunswick counties, Virginia, some of whom migrated to Ohio and Indiana in the 1830's and went to court on several occasions to prove, successfully, their Indian ancestry. The case Parker Jeffries vs. Ankeny, which went to the Ohio Supreme Court in 1842 is an example. Jeffries was proved to be the son of a white man and a "woman of the Indian race". Parker's brother Augustus went to court around the same time to change his name, and the court notes his Indian ancestry as well. Paul Heinegg uses the testimony in the two court cases to support his genealogical conclusions, but never mentions the fact that the court ruled in both cases that the men were Indian/White mixed bloods with no African ancestry. If the cases are acceptable for the purpose of the family tree, I see no valid reason for dismissing the findings of the court regarding the Jeffries' Indian background.


From Tim Hashaw 13 April 2001:

If there is specific evidence that records obtained by, or conclusions reached by, Paul Heinegg in "Free African - Americans of Virginia and North and South Carolina" are erroneous, I would very be interested in seeing that evidence. I have read the book and Heinegg indeed does include records of Indians although he was searching for "Negroes", "mulattoes" and "free coloureds" descended from 17th century "Negroes". He also presents evidence of Indian-African-white intermarriage as well as presenting photographs of Indians and whites who intermarried with Africans in the album section.

The University of Virginia is soon to release (around June 2001) DNA results of tests performed on some of the descendants of folks mentioned by Heinegg. That should help settle the question of Heinegg's accuracy for those who are objective.

... The problem with exclusively accepting the ruling of 19th century courts is well documented. The quality of one's lawyer, the region, the number of available witnesses etc., may lead a jury to reach a verdict which is not necessarily true. An early court also ruled that Melungeons descended from Carthaginians, a conclusion not widely supported today. While the testimony leading to judgements reached by early juries are important, they are not always found valid later. This is why one is usually selective in the court cases he or she quotes. Nor is Heinegg to be accepted alone. Nor are DNA tests. Nor are family traditions. But all taken together may present a picture that grows more clear as research continues. Testimony in many early cases may require re-examination. But your point about "lacking all the pieces of the puzzle" will be relevant tomorrow as well as today. "Never mentions" does not indicate an error in Heinegg's records or his conclusions.

I don't think I quite understand your last sentence:

"If the cases are acceptable for the purpose of the family tree, I see no valid reason for dismissing the findings of the court regarding the Jeffries' Indian background".


From Forest Hazel, 13 Apr 2001:

Let me restate the last sentence. If the testimony in the court cases is valid for the purpose of reconstructing the Jeffries family tree, why is it invalid regarding their Indian background? It seems to me an indication of bias on Mr. Heinegg's part to include only the part of the information that serves his purpose, leaving out any reference to the fact that the persons in question were found NOT to be "Free African Americans". I believe It does indeed indicate an error in his conclusions. The Ohio Supreme Court found Parker Jeffries to be a mixed blood Indian, entitled to the same legal status as a white man. What is Mr. Heinegg's basis for saying this particular case was in error? Why does he hide the conclusion of the court from the readers, and had Parker Jeffries been judged to be Black, would he have neglected to include that finding? Noting that the Jeffries were found to be Indians does not serve as an endorsement of the finding on his part, and to deliberately conceal it does a disservice to anyone reading the book. I think it also calls into question the validity of many of his other conclusions.

I don't expect Mr. Heinegg to prove these various families are Indians; that is not the purpose of his book. I do believe that in the interests of fairness he should present the historical information evenhandedly, even if he does not agree with a particular part of it. One way of dealing with this, and similar matters (which he DOES utilize in his book, in other sections) might have been to simply note "Parker Jeffries was found by the court to be of Indian and White descent, with no African admixture, however in other records......." and then give whatever explanation he desired to explain the finding away.

That said, I agree with you about the factors affecting court rulings, except I would not limit it to the 19th century. Perhaps what needs to happen is that someone needs to write a book, similar to Mr. Heinegg's that will contain documentation for Indian families in Virginia and the Carolinas. It would be a project that could, realistically, be a life's work. I disagree with Mr. Heinegg's conclusions and attitudes regarding some of these families, but there is no denying that he has done a tremendous amount of work in this area, and, as of right now, Southern Indian people don't have anything of a similar nature. Ideally it would pull together court records, census records, early land records, etc., anything that would help document the Indian background of these families. Not so much as a rebuttal to Mr. Heinegg, but simply because it needs to be done for our own benefit. I am hoping to begin a small part of that this year by examining the 1910 NC census, and abstracting the information on anyone listed as 'Indian' or 'Other' for that particular listing.











"The History and Genealogy of the
Native American Isolate Communities
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Surrounding Areas on the Delmarva Peninsula
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